The online kangaroo courtA university student committed suicide after his identity was revealed on the Digital Prison, a name-and-shame website operated overseas to expose sex offenders. The victim filed a defamation suit against the site operator, but he chose to take his own life out of shame as the investigation was delayed due to the difficulty of tracking an overseas server.
Concerns are rising over the online phenomenon of vigilantism. Another male came under attack on cyberspace after being accused of raping a teenager in Miryang, South Gyeongsang in 2004, on the same site.
Digital Prison was created in May and has since exposed the identities of over 100 offenders, including Son Jung-woo, the creator of one of the world’s largest child porn sites “Welcome to Video.” The operator claimed to have launched the site after being angered by the slap-on-the-wrist punishments handed down by the judiciary for sex crimes. The site also exposed the names of judges who had handed down light punishments to sex offenders.
The site operator claimed he had been enraged upon learning that one of his cousins was a victim of the “Nth room,” a controversial pornographic social media platform. The operator tracked down traders of porn items through hacking and decided to launch the site. There are other social media platforms such as Bad Fathers that discloses identities of men who refuse to meet childcare financial obligations after divorcing, as well as Telegram Scarlet Letter which shames the previous users of the Nth room. They are aimed at taking justice into their own hands due to their distrust of law enforcement agencies.
Even law enforcement authorities go through a review process before deciding to disclose the identities of criminal suspects. Public shaming by disclosing identities of individuals can be seriously damaging due to the risk of malicious abuse. If victims are wrongfully accused, the damage can be lasting and even lethal due to the viral effect of online posting.
The legal community is criticizing the Digital Prison for acting as a kangaroo court based on limited and one-sided testimonies and materials — and for undermining the presumption of innocence principle and legitimate legal grounds.
No law-abiding societies condone private revenge. An offense must be judged and punished by state authorities. Innocent victims should not have their identities revealed due to reckless exposure on the internet and public shaming. Police must seek international cooperation to track down overseas operators. The country must revise related laws so that individuals won’t have to take the law into their own hands.
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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